But Ference made his presence known leaguewide off the ice in 2009. By leading the charge to dismiss Kelly, Ference helped to initiate the process that led to the hiring of Donald Fehr in December of 2010.
Had Kelly remained in charge, Ference acknowledged the lockout would have ended earlier. An agreement, however, would have come at a cost to the players.
“We’d be playing. For sure,” Ference said. “I’m sure we wouldn’t have missed as much hockey. I think the league would have been salivating.”
Instead, the players turned to Fehr. The players have forfeited nearly three months worth of salary because of the lockout. But they believe that Fehr’s insistence on unity — the yet-to-be-ratified agreement makes the NHL’s initial proposal look like an April Fool’s joke — resulted in concessions to counter the loss of paychecks.
Ference has played under five executive directors: Fehr, Kelly, Ian Penny, Bob Goodenow, and Ted Saskin. Under Fehr’s leadership, Ference believes the NHLPA’s turbulent times are over.
“It’s really impressive to see that transformation going all the way back to the last lockout,” Ference said. “Seeing different people come in, take over the helm, and seemingly time after time being disappointed. Things happening and issues arising with each and every one of them — issues that yanked the union apart. To finally have some stability, to have some real leadership, and to have a guy that can come in and do a really time-crunched job of getting to know everybody and unifying everybody in a really tough situation is awesome.”